I’m a dog person. Cats are nice, people are good, but I love dogs. Mine is named Anya, and even though she can be a handful, I’m grateful for her every day.
And not only is Anya a wonderful member of the family, she’s also great for my health.
If you’ve ever had a bad day only to come home to a pet who makes all of your problems melt away, you know that dogs are an amazing way to reduce stress. In fact, having a dog might even help lower your blood pressure and reduce the levels of a stress hormone in your body.
I don’t know exactly how it works, but I’m pretty sure it has something to do with petting an animal that is constantly happy.
Go for a Walk
Sometimes it’s tempting for me to stay inside and watch Netflix all day. Other times I feel like sleeping in incredibly late. But I can’t do that anymore, because there’s a dog that depends on me.
So I grab the leash and take her for a walk—and add some extra steps to my FitBit.
Also, Anya is my hiking inspiration. Even though she is just a little dog, she never slows down, she never gets discouraged, and she makes me feel like I can keep going even when I’m tired.
A study conducted by Michigan State University’s Epidemiology department found that dog walkers were more active people overall. In a country where fewer than half of the population meets their recommended leisure-item physical activity levels, owning a dog could inspire people to get outside and get active.
“Obviously you would expect dog walkers to walk more, but we found people who walked their dog also had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activities. There appears to be a strong link between owning and walking a dog and achieving higher levels of physical activity, even after accounting for the actual dog walking,” said Matthew Reeves, epidemiologist.
I think the biggest thing that owning a dog has done for me is taught me to put someone else’s needs before my own. And I’m not just talking about taking Anya for walks.
Responsibility is one of the trickiest parts of adulthood, and I’m still kind of figuring it out. While it comes naturally to me to work hard to advance my career, or to put money into savings for a rainy day, having a dog feels like a completely different kind of responsibility to me.
If Anya needs to go to the vet, that’s it—that’s what I’m doing that day, no matter what else I had planned. If Anya eats some grass, I need to watch her for the next hour to see where (not if, but where) she’s going to throw up so I can clean it up immediately. I know that’s gross, but if you have a dog you get used to the gross stuff right away.
I have to take care of her because she can’t take care of herself. And somehow, instead of creating resentment, it makes me love her that much more.
Please tell me about your pets (and the healthy behavior they inspire) in the comments!
WebMD: 6 Ways Pets Improve Your Health
Reeves, M., Rafferty, A.P., Miller, C., Lyon-Callo, S. The Impact of Dog Walking on Leisure-Time Physical Activity: Results from a Population-Based Survey of Michigan Adults. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2011 8:3, 436-444
Dog Walkers More Likely to Reach Exercise Benchmarks, Michigan State University
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